Robert Burns: Poems


The Dean Of Faculty

A New Ballad

Tune—"The Dragon of Wantley."

Dire was the hate at old Harlaw,

That Scot to Scot did carry;

And dire the discord Langside saw

For beauteous, hapless Mary:

But Scot to Scot ne'er met so hot,

Or were more in fury seen, Sir,

Than 'twixt Hal and Bob for the famous job,

Who should be the Faculty's Dean, Sir.

This Hal for genius, wit and lore,

Among the first was number'd;

But pious Bob, 'mid learning's store,

Commandment the tenth remember'd:

Yet simple Bob the victory got,

And wan his heart's desire,

Which shews that heaven can boil the pot,

Tho' the devil piss in the fire.

Squire Hal, besides, had in this case

Pretensions rather brassy;

For talents, to deserve a place,

Are qualifications saucy.

So their worships of the Faculty,

Quite sick of merit's rudeness,

Chose one who should owe it all, d'ye see,

To their gratis grace and goodness.

As once on Pisgah purg'd was the sight

Of a son of Circumcision,

So may be, on this Pisgah height,

Bob's purblind mental vision—

Nay, Bobby's mouth may be opened yet,

Till for eloquence you hail him,

And swear that he has the angel met

That met the ass of Balaam.

In your heretic sins may you live and die,

Ye heretic Eight-and-Tairty!

But accept, ye sublime Majority,

My congratulations hearty.

With your honours, as with a certain king,

In your servants this is striking,

The more incapacity they bring,

The more they're to your liking.

Epistle To Colonel De Peyster

My honor'd Colonel, deep I feel

Your interest in the Poet's weal;

Ah! now sma' heart hae I to speel

The steep Parnassus,

Surrounded thus by bolus pill,

And potion glasses.

O what a canty world were it,

Would pain and care and sickness spare it;

And Fortune favour worth and merit

As they deserve;

And aye rowth o' roast-beef and claret,

Syne, wha wad starve?

Dame Life, tho' fiction out may trick her,

And in paste gems and frippery deck her;

Oh! flickering, feeble, and unsicker

I've found her still,

Aye wavering like the willow-wicker,

'Tween good and ill.

Then that curst carmagnole, auld Satan,

Watches like baudrons by a ratton

Our sinfu' saul to get a claut on,

Wi'felon ire;

Syne, whip! his tail ye'll ne'er cast saut on,

He's aff like fire.

Ah Nick! ah Nick! it is na fair,

First showing us the tempting ware,

Bright wines, and bonie lasses rare,

To put us daft

Syne weave, unseen, thy spider snare

O hell's damned waft.

Poor Man, the flie, aft bizzes by,

And aft, as chance he comes thee nigh,

Thy damn'd auld elbow yeuks wi'joy

And hellish pleasure!

Already in thy fancy's eye,

Thy sicker treasure.

Soon, heels o'er gowdie, in he gangs,

And, like a sheep-head on a tangs,

Thy girning laugh enjoys his pangs,

And murdering wrestle,

As, dangling in the wind, he hangs,

A gibbet's tassel.

But lest you think I am uncivil

To plague you with this draunting drivel,

Abjuring a' intentions evil,

I quat my pen,

The Lord preserve us frae the devil!

Amen! Amen!

A Lass Wi' A Tocher

Tune—"Ballinamona Ora."

Awa' wi' your witchcraft o' Beauty's alarms,

The slender bit Beauty you grasp in your arms,

O, gie me the lass that has acres o' charms,

O, gie me the lass wi' the weel-stockit farms.

Chorus—Then hey, for a lass wi' a tocher,

Then hey, for a lass wi' a tocher;

Then hey, for a lass wi' a tocher;

The nice yellow guineas for me.

Your Beauty's a flower in the morning that blows,

And withers the faster, the faster it grows:

But the rapturous charm o' the bonie green knowes,

Ilk spring they're new deckit wi' bonie white yowes.

Then hey, for a lass, &c.

And e'en when this Beauty your bosom hath blest

The brightest o' Beauty may cloy when possess'd;

But the sweet, yellow darlings wi' Geordie impress'd,

The langer ye hae them, the mair they're carest.

Then hey, for a lass, &c.

Heron Election Ballad, No. IV.

The Trogger.

Tune—"Buy Broom Besoms."

Wha will buy my troggin, fine election ware,

Broken trade o' Broughton, a' in high repair?

Chorus—Buy braw troggin frae the banks o' Dee;

Wha wants troggin let him come to me.

There's a noble Earl's fame and high renown,

For an auld sang—it's thought the gudes were stown—

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here's the worth o' Broughton in a needle's e'e;

Here's a reputation tint by Balmaghie.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here's its stuff and lining, Cardoness' head,

Fine for a soger, a' the wale o' lead.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here's a little wadset, Buittle's scrap o' truth,

Pawn'd in a gin-shop, quenching holy drouth.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here's an honest conscience might a prince adorn;

Frae the downs o' Tinwald, so was never worn.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here's armorial bearings frae the manse o' Urr;

The crest, a sour crab-apple, rotten at the core.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here's the worth and wisdom Collieston can boast;

By a thievish midge they had been nearly lost.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here is Satan's picture, like a bizzard gled,

Pouncing poor Redcastle, sprawlin' like a taed.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here's the font where Douglas stane and mortar names;

Lately used at Caily christening Murray's crimes.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Here is Murray's fragments o' the ten commands;

Gifted by black Jock to get them aff his hands.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Saw ye e'er sic troggin? if to buy ye're slack,

Hornie's turnin chapman—he'll buy a' the pack.

Buy braw troggin, &c.

Complimentary Versicles To Jessie Lewars

The Toast

Fill me with the rosy wine,

Call a toast, a toast divine:

Giveth me Poet's darling flame,

Lovely Jessie be her name;

Then thou mayest freely boast,

Thou hast given a peerless toast.

The Menagerie

Talk not to me of savages,

From Afric's burning sun;

No savage e'er could rend my heart,

As Jessie, thou hast done:

But Jessie's lovely hand in mine,

A mutual faith to plight,

Not even to view the heavenly choir,

Would be so blest a sight.

Jessie's illness

Say, sages, what's the charm on earth

Can turn Death's dart aside!

It is not purity and worth,

Else Jessie had not died.

On Her Recovery

But rarely seen since Nature's birth,

The natives of the sky;

Yet still one seraph's left on earth,

For Jessie did not die.

O Lay Thy Loof In Mine, Lass

Chorus—O lay thy loof in mine, lass,

In mine, lass, in mine, lass;

And swear on thy white hand, lass,

That thou wilt be my ain.

A slave to Love's unbounded sway,

He aft has wrought me meikle wae;

But now he is my deadly fae,

Unless thou be my ain.

O lay thy loof, &c.

There's mony a lass has broke my rest,

That for a blink I hae lo'ed best;

But thou art Queen within my breast,

For ever to remain.

O lay thy loof, &c.

A Health To Ane I Loe Dear

Chorus—Here's a health to ane I loe dear,

Here's a health to ane I loe dear;

Thou art sweet as the smile when fond lovers meet,

And soft as their parting tear—Jessy.

Altho' thou maun never be mine,

Altho' even hope is denied;

'Tis sweeter for thee despairing,

Than ought in the world beside—Jessy.

Here's a health, &c.

I mourn thro' the gay, gaudy day,

As hopeless I muse on thy charms;

But welcome the dream o' sweet slumber,

For then I am lockt in thine arms—Jessy.

Here's a health, &c.

I guess by the dear angel smile,

I guess by the love-rolling e'e;

But why urge the tender confession,

'Gainst Fortune's fell, cruel decree?—Jessy.

Here's a health, &c.

O Wert Thou In The Cauld Blast

O wert thou in the cauld blast,

On yonder lea, on yonder lea,

My plaidie to the angry airt,

I'd shelter thee, I'd shelter thee;

Or did Misfortune's bitter storms

Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,

Thy bield should be my bosom,

To share it a', to share it a'.

Or were I in the wildest waste,

Sae black and bare, sae black and bare,

The desert were a Paradise,

If thou wert there, if thou wert there;

Or were I Monarch o' the globe,

Wi' thee to reign, wi' thee to reign,

The brightest jewel in my Crown

Wad be my Queen, wad be my Queen.

Inscription To Miss Jessy Lewars

On a copy of the Scots Musical Museum, in four volumes, presented to her by Burns. ^1

Thine be the volumes, Jessy fair,

And with them take the Poet's prayer,

That Fate may, in her fairest page,

With ev'ry kindliest, best presage

Of future bliss, enroll thy name:

With native worth and spotless fame,

And wakeful caution, still aware

Of ill—but chief, Man's felon snare;

All blameless joys on earth we find,

And all the treasures of the mind—

These be thy guardian and reward;

So prays thy faithful friend, the Bard.

Dumfries, June 26, 1769.

[Footnote 1: Written for music played by Miss Lewars, who

nursed him in his last illness.]

Fairest Maid On Devon Banks


Chorus—Fairest maid on Devon banks,

Crystal Devon, winding Devon,

Wilt thou lay that frown aside,

And smile as thou wert wont to do?

Full well thou know'st I love thee dear,

Couldst thou to malice lend an ear!

O did not Love exclaim: "Forbear,

Nor use a faithful lover so."

Fairest maid, &c.

Then come, thou fairest of the fair,

Those wonted smiles, O let me share;

And by thy beauteous self I swear,

No love but thine my heart shall know.

Fairest maid, &c.